The owner of said he is “appalled” by a proposal presented to him by the City Center District to locate a national Coast Guard museum in .
John P. Wronowski, in a letter to CCD president George Dowker, said he supports locating such a museum in New London but feels the Union Station proposal will impede with ferry operations and stymie transportation growth. Wronowski also said he felt CCD had not properly vetted the matter and asked that his businesses be severed from the organization.
The letter was copied to several elected and municipal officials, including the City Council. Dowker spoke briefly before the council on Monday, saying no formal vote has been taken on supporting the establishment of the museum in the station. Dowker also provided the council with a letter that was sent to Wronowski on Feb. 7.
“While we think it may hold tremendous potential for our city for the reasons cited in the letter, this is only the first stage and there needs to be substantial discussion among the stakeholders,” Dowker said in an introduction given to the council.
In the Feb. 7 letter, Dowker writes that establishing a 60,0000 square foot Coast Guard museum in Union Station will provide a tourist destination and benefit downtown business. Dowker also says the museum would give New London “the opportunity to create a state-of-the-art transportation hub for rail, ferries, and buses that will solidify New London as a major destination for travelers and tourists throughout New England.”
Dowker says architectural renderings of the proposal are a first step toward establishing the museum. He said discussions about possibly locating the museum in Union Station include representatives from the Coast Guard, Amtrak, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Army Corps of Engineers, downtown stakeholders, and federal, state, and local authorities.
Wronowski responded in a letter on Feb. 17, writing, “I am appalled that City Center District would take a position on a proposition of such magnitude as a national museum in downtown without informing Cross Sound Ferry, the one member who would be most adversely affected by these plans.”
Wronowski says that the architectural plans as proposed will inhibit rail and bus growth at the site as well as the use of the Cross Sound Ferry and . He says the plans will take away land Cross Sound Ferry has leased from the city for over 20 years, preventing any future growth of the ferry services and impeding the safe docking and navigation of the ships.
Stanley W. Mickus, director of marketing and public affairs for Cross Sound Ferry, said in an e-mail on Wednesday that the plan shown to the business by Cathy Cook of the National Coast Guard Museum Association includes an annex building on the property Cross Sound Ferry has leased from the city. Mickus said such construction will obstruct emergency right of way and infringe upon the company’s riparian water rights.
“Furthermore, it obliterates our own plan for an expanded high-speed ferry service, which has been on public record with the city for years and runs counter to a recent state funded study spearheaded by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut and overseen by the region’s Council of Governments that identifies the property in question as part of the region’s transportation hub,” said Mickus.
“With a museum at the proposed location, New London will have no future as a transportation hub for the region,” says Wronowski. “While we are in favor of a USCG museum in New London, we are vehemently opposed to the museum at the proposed location.”
Mickus said the company objected to "CCD taking unilateral support for a project of this nature without first receiving input from members of the CCD." In his letter, Wronowski describes Dowker’s support of a museum at Union Station as “another example of the CCD, under your leadership, obstructing our business and its future.” He says Cross Sound Ferry properties also include the , Thames Realty, and Cross Sound Deli.
“With no cooperation from CCD and honestly, little or nothing to show for our inclusion, we will pursue avenues and look for your support to have our properties permanently severed from the New London City Center District,” Wronowski concludes.
Dowker said in an e-mail Wednesday that the architectural drawings were requested by Todd O’Donnell of the Blackwell Company, which owns Union Station. He said CCD will discuss the museum proposal at an upcoming monthly meeting.
“The reality is that we have no plans at this point and this is not our project, it is the Blackwell Company’s project,” said Dowker. “We were shown the conceptual plans at last month’s [meeting] and have not done anything other than invite Cross Sound Ferry to explore the idea.”
Mickus said Cross Sound Ferry plans on meeting with interested properties in the near future on the issue. Dowker said he is not aware of any properties withdrawing from CCD.
“I am grateful that CSF shared their point of view and I look forward to continuing discussions with them,” he said.
Wronowski’s letter was sent shortly after the , which aimed to show support for Coast Guard institutions in New London. The event , with the organization noting that CCD partner has supported the site as a museum location.
In 2004, Congress passed a bill approving the construction of a Coast Guard museum at or near the Coast Guard Academy, following the 2002 selection of Fort Trumbull as a preferred site. These decisions came in the midst of the eminent domain battle at Fort Trumbull, however, and fundraising for the project stalled in the economic downturn.
According to The Day, the proposal to use Union Station as a Coast Guard museum site was first raised in 2010 by a grassroots group and the National Coast Guard Museum Association is continuing to review possible sites. In its conclusions regarding the future of the Fort Trumbull peninsula, the said a Coast Guard museum could be included as part of the development there.
Mayor Daryl Finizio last week to meet with Admiral Robert J. Papp of the Coast Guard as well as Senator Joe Lieberman and Rep. Joe Courtney. Zak Leavy, Finizio’s executive assistant, said Finizio met with Wronowski on Wednesday to hear his concerns.
“The mayor's been working diligently to bring the Coast Guard museum to New
London and there are several sites available,” said Leavy.